Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time online

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them ; " then drawing Jane close to her, and taking her
hand she said with an impulsive tenderness

" Jane, dear Jane, I do not wish to open a wound afresh,
but I am sorry for you, I am indeed ! How can you bear
it ? "

" I have cast over it the balm of prayer ; I have shut it
up in my heart, and given my heart to God. I have said
to God, Do as Thou wilt with me. I am content ; and
I have found a light in sorrow, brighter than all the flaring
lights of joy."

u Then you believe him to be dead ? "

"Yes. There is no help against such a conclusion ; and
yet, Matilda, there comes to me sometimes, such an instan
taneous, penetrating sense of his presence, that I must be
lieve he is not far away ; " and her confident heart s still
fervour, her tremulous smile, her eyes like clear water full
of the sky, affected Matilda with the same apprehending.
" My soul leans and hearkens after him," she continued ;
"and life is so short and so full of duty, it may be easily,
yes, cheerfully, borne a few years. My cup is still full of
love home love, and friends love ; Cluny s love is safe,
and we shall meet again, when life is over."

" Will you know ? Will he know ? What if you both
forget ? What if you cannot find him ? Have you ever
thought of what multitudes there will be there ? "

" Yes ; a great crowd that no man can number a throng
of worlds but love will bring the beloved. Love hath
everlasting remembrance."

" Love is a cruel joy ! a baseless dream ! a great tragedy !
a lingering death ! "

" No, no, no ! Love is the secret of life. Love redeems
us. Love lifts us up. Love is a ransom. The tears of
love are a prayer. I let them fall into my hands, and offer


them a willing sacrifice to Him who gave me love. For
living or dead, Cluny is mine, mine forever." And there
was such a haunting sweetness about the chastened girl,
that Matilda looked round wonderingly; it was as if there
were freshly gathered violets in the room.

She remained silent, and Jane, after a few minutes pause,
said, " I must go home, now, and rest a little. To-morrow
I am bid to Hampton Court, and I am not as strong as I
was a year ago. Little journeys tire me."

" And you will come and tell me all about your visit.
The world turned upside down is an entertaining spectacle.
By my troth, I am glad to see it at second hand ! Ann
Clarges the market-woman in one palace, and Elizabeth
Cromwell in another "

u The Cromvvells are my friends, Matilda. And I will
assure you that Hampton Court never saw a more worthy
queen than Elizabeth Cromwell."

" I have a saucy tongue, Jane do not mind when it
backbites; there is no one like you. I love you well ! "
These words with clasped hands and kisses between the
two girls. Then Matilda s face became troubled, and she
sat clown alone, with her brows drawn together and her
hands tightly clasped. "What shall I do? " she asked her
self, and she could not resolve on her answer ; not, at least,
while swayed by the gentle, truthful atmosphere with which
Jane had suffused the room. This influence, however, was
soon invaded by her own personality, dominant, and not
unselfish, and she quickly reasoned away all suggestions
but those which guarded her own happiness and comfort.

" If I tell about the duel with Rupert," she thought, "it
can do no good to the dead, and it may make scandal and
annoyance for the living. Cromwell will take hold of it,
and demand not only the jewels and money and papers, but



also the body of Neville. That will make more ill feeling
to the Stuarts, and it is manifest they are already very un
welcome with the French Court. It will be excuse for
further unkindness, and they have enough and more than
enough to bear."

For a long time she sat musing in this strain, battling
down intrusive doubts, until at last she was forced to give
them speech. She did so impatiently, feeling herself com
pelled to rise and walk rapidly up and down the room, be
cause motion gave her a sense of resistance to the thoughts
threatening to overwhelm her.

" Did Rupert kill Neville ? " she asked herself. " Oh,
me, I do fear it. And if so, I am to blame ! I am to
blame ! I told Rupert Neville was going to take charge of
my aunt s jewels. Why was I such a fool ? And Rupert
knew that Neville had papers Charles Stuart would like to
see, and money he would like to have. Oh, the vile, vile
coin ! I do fear the man was slain for it and by Rupert.
He lied to me, then; of course he lied; but that was no
new thing for him to do. He has lied a thousand times to
me, and when found out only laughed, or said twas for my
ease and happiness, or that women could not bear the
truth, or some such trash of words ; and so I was kissed
and flattered out of my convictions. Faith in God ! but I
have been a woman fit for his laughter ! What shall I
do ? " She went over and over this train of thought, and
ended always with the same irresolute, anxious question,
" What shall I do ? "

It was not the first time she had accused Rupert in her
heart. She knew him to be an incomparable swordsman;
she knew he regarded duelling as a mere pastime or ac
cident of life. The killing of Neville would not give him
a moment s discomfort, quite otherwise, for he was a trifle


jealous of him in more ways than one ; and there were
money and information to be gained by the deed. Politic
ally, the 111:1:1 was his enemy, and to kill him was only
"satisfaction." The story Rupert told her of the duel had
always been an improbable one to her intelligence. She
did not believe it at the time, and the lapse of time had im
paired whatever of likelihood it possessed.

u Yes, yes," she said to herself. " Rupert undoubtedly
killed Neville, and gave the jewels and money and papers
to Cirirles Stuart. But how can I tell this thing ? I can
not ! If it would restore the man s life perhaps. Oh,
that I had never seen him ! How many miserable hours I
can mix with his name ! The creature was very unworthy
of fane, and I am glad he is dead. Yes, I am. Thousands
of better men are slain, and forgotten let him be forgot
ten also. I will not say a word. Why should I bring
Rupert in question ? One never knows where such in
quiries set on foot will stop, especially if that wretch
Cromwell takes a hand in the catechism." But she was
unhappy, Jane s face reproached her; she could not put
away from her consciousness and memory its stillness, its
haunting pallor and unworldlike far-offness.

The next day Jane went to Hampton Court. The place
made no more favourable impression on her than it had
done at her first visit. Indeed, its melancholy, monastic
atmosphere was even more remarkable. The forest was
bare and desolate, the avenues veiled in mist, the battle-
mented towers black with rooks, the silence of the great
quadrangles only emphasised by the slow tread of the sol
dier on guard. But Mrs. Cromwell had not lived in the
Fen country without learning how to shut nature s gloom
outside. Jane was cheered the moment she entered the
old palace by the bla/.e and crackle ot the enormous wood-


fires. Posy bowls, full of iVlichaelmas daisies, bronzed
ferns, and late autumn flowers were on every table; pots
of ivy drooped from the mantel, and the delicious odour of
the tiny musk flower permeated every room with its wild,
earthy perfume.

She was conducted to an apartment in one of the suites
formerly occupied by Queen Henrietta Maria. It was
gaily furnished in the French style, and though years had
dimmed the gilding and the fanciful paintings and the rich
satin draperies, it was full of a reminiscent charm Jane
could not escape. As she dressed herself she thought of
the great men and women who had lived and loved, and
joyed and sorrowed under this ancient roof of Wolsey s
splendid palace. Henry the Eighth and his wives, young
Edward, the bloody Queen Mary, and the high-mettled
Elizabeth ; the despicable James, and the tyrant Charles
with his handsome favourite, Buckingham, and his un
fortunate advisers, StrafFord and Laud. And then Oliver
Cromwell ! What retributions there were in that name !
It implied, in its very simplicity, changes unqualified and
uncompromising, reaching down to the very root of things.

It seemed natural to dress splendidly to thoughts touch
ing so many royalties, and Jane looked with satisfaction at
her toilet. It had progressed without much care, but the
result was fitting and beautiful : a long gown of pale blue
silk, with white lace sleeves and a lace tippet, and a string
of pearls round her throat. Anything more would have
been too much for Jane Swaffham, though when the
Ladies Mary and Frances came to her, she could not help
admiring their bows and bracelets and chains, their hair
dressed with gemmed combs and their hands full of fresh
flowers. She thought they looked like princesses, and they
were overflowing with good-natured happiness.


Taking Jane by the hand, they led her from room to
room, showing her what had been done and what had been
added, and lingering specially in the magnificent suite
which was all their own. It was very strange. Jane
thought of the little chamber with the sloping roof in the
house they occupied in Ely, and she wondered for a mo
ment, if she was dreaming. On their way to the parlours
they passed the door of a room Jane recollected entering on
her previous visit, and she asked what changes had been
made in it ?

" None," said Mary with a touch of something like

u None at all," reiterated Frances. " You know Charles
Stuart tried to sleep in it, and he had dreadful dreams, and
the night lamp was always put out, and he said the place
was full of horror and suffering. It was haunted," the girl
almost whispered. " My father said nonsense, and he
slept in it two nights, and then "

" Father found it too cold," interrupted Mary im
patiently. " He never said more than that. Listen !
Some one is coming at full gallop some two, I think,"
and she ran to the window and peered out into the night.

" It is the Protector," she said ; " and I believe Admiral
Blake is with him. Let us go down-stairs." And they
took Jane s hands and went together down the great stair
way. Lovelier women had never trod the dark, splendid de
scent ; and the soft wax-lights in the candelabra gave to their
youthful beauty a strange, dreamlike sense of unreal life
and movement. Mary and Frances were talking softly ;
Jane was thinking of that closed room with its evil-proph
esying dreams, and its lights put out by unseen hands,
and the mournful, superstitious King in his captivity fear
ing the place, and feeling in it as Brutus felt when his evil


genius came to him in his tent and said, " I will meet thee
again at Philippi." Then in a moment there flashed across
her mind a woeful dream she had one night about Cluny.
It had come to her in the height of her hope and happi
ness, and she had put it resolutely from her. Now she
strove with all her soul to recollect it, but Frances would
not be still, and the dream slipped back below the thresh
old. She could have cried. She had been on the point of
saying, " Oh, do be quiet ! " but the soul s illumination had
been too short and too impalpable for her to grasp.

The next moment they were in a brilliantly lighted
room. Mr. and Mrs. Claypole, and Mr. and Mrs. Richard
Cromwell, and Doctor John Owen, and Mr. Milton, and
Doctor Verity were grouped around her Highness the
Protector s handsome wife. And she was taking their
homage as naturally as she had been used to take attention
in her simple home in Ely, being more troubled about the
proper serving of dinner than about her own dignity. She
sat at the Protector s right hand, and Jane Swaffham sat at
his left.

" The great men must scatter themselves, Jane," he
said ; " my daughter Dorothy Cromwell wants to be near
Mr. Milton, and Lady Claypole will have none but Doctor
Owen, and one way or another, you will have to be con
tent with my company," and he laid her hand under his
hand, and smiled down into her face with a fatherly

He was in an unusually happy mood, and Doctor Owen
remarking it, Admiral Blake said, " They had been mobbed
mobbed by women and the Protector had the best of it,
and that was a thing to pleasure any man." Then Mrs.
Cromwell laughed and said,

" Your Highness must tell us all now, or we shall be


very discontented. Where were you, to meet a mob of
women ? "

" We were in London streets, somewhere near the
waterside. Blake was with me, and Blake is going to
Portsmouth to take command of an expedition."

" Where to ? " asked Mrs. Claypole.

" Well, Elizabeth, that is precisely the question this
mob of women wanted me to answer. You are as bad as
they were. But they had some excuse."

" Pray what excuse, sir, that I have not ? "

" They were the wives of the sailor men going with our
Admiral on his expedition. And they got all round me,
they did indeed : and one handsome woman with a little
lad in her arms she told me to look well at him because
he was called Oliver after me took hold of my bridle,
and said, You won t trample me down, General, for the
lad s sake; and tis but natural for us to want to know
where you are sending our husbands. Come, General, tell
us wives and mothers where the ships are going to ? And
there was Robert Blake laughing and thinking it fine sport,
but I stood up in my stirrups and called out as loud as I
could, Women, can you be quiet for one minute ? They
said, Aye, to be sure we can, if you ll speak out, General.
Then I said to them, You want to know where the ships
and your men are going. Listen to me! The Ambassadors
of France and Spain would, each of them, give a million
pounds to know that. Do you understand, women ?
And for a moment there was a dead silence, then a
shout of comprehension and laughter, and the woman at
my bridle lifted the boy Oliver to me, and I took him in
my arms and kissed the rosy little brat, and then another
shout, and the mother said, General, you be right welcome
to my share of the secret ; and mine ! and mine !


4 and mine ! they all shouted, and the voices of those
women went to my heart and brain like wine, they did that.
They made me glad ; I believe I shouted with them."

" I haven t a doubt of it," said Doctor Verity. " Well,
Robert, did they have nothing to say to you ? " he asked,
turning to Admiral Blake.

" They asked me to treat my men well ; and I said, I ll
treat them like myself. I ll give them plenty of meat and
drink, and plenty of fighting and prize money ; and so to
their good will we passed all through the city, and, as I live,
twas the pleasantest progress any mortal men could de

Then Doctor Verity began to talk of the American
Colonies, and their wonderful growth. " John Maidstone
is here," he said ; " and with him that godly minister, the
Rev. Mr. Hooker. We have had much conversation to
day, and surely God made the New World to comfort the
woes of the old one."

" You have expressed exactly, sir, the prophetic lines of
the pagan poet, Horace," answered Mr. Milton. And
Cromwell looked at him and said, " Repeat them for us,
John ; I doubt not but they are worthy, if it be so that
you remember them." Then Milton, in a clear and stately
manner, recited the six lines from Horace s " Patriotic La
ment" to which he had referred

" Merciful gift of a relenting God,

Home of the homeless, preordained for you,

Last vestige of the age of gold,

Last refuge of the good and bold ;
From stars malign, from plague and tempests free,
Far mid the Western waves, a secret Sanctuary. "

And as Cromwell listened his face grew luminous ; he


seemed to look through his eyeballs, rather than with
them, and when Milton ceased there was silence until he

" I see," he said, " a great people, a vast empire, from
the loins of all nations it shall spring. And there shall he
no king there. But the desire of all hearts shall be to
wards it, and it shall be a covert for the oppressed, and
bread and wine and meat for those ready to perish." Then,
sighing, he seemed to realise the near and the present, and
he added, " Twas but yesterday I wrote to that good man,
the Rev. John Cotton of Boston. I have told him that I
am truly ready to serve him and the rest of the brethren,
and the churches with him. And Doctor Verity, I wish
much to have some talk with Mr. Hooker. I have a pur
pose to ask him to be my chaplain, if he be so minded, for
his sermons first tauirht me that I had a soul to save, and


that I must transact that business directly with God, and
not through any church or clergy." And when Cromwell
made this statement, he little realised that Hooker, found
ing a democracy in America, and he himself fighting for a
free Parliament and a constitutionally limited executive in
England, were " both of them of the same spirit and pur
pose " ; and that the Hartford minister and the Huntingdon
gentleman were preeminently the leaders in that great
movement of the seventeenth century which made the
United States, and is now transforming England.

Doctor Verity shook his head at the mention of the
Chaplainship. " Your Highness will give great offense to
some not of Mr. Hooker s precise way of thinking," he

" I care not, John Verity," Oliver answered with much
warmth; "one creed must not trample upon the heels of
another creed ; Independents must not despise those under

3 20


baptism, and revile them. I will not suffer it. Even to
Quakers, we must wish no more harm than we do our own

With these words he rose from the table, and Mr. Mil
ton, the Ladies Mary and Frances Cromwell, and Jane
Swaffham went into the great hall, where there was an ex
ceedingly fine organ. In a short time Mr. Milton began to
play and to sing, but the girls walked up and down talking
to Jane of their admirers, and their new gowns, and of
love-letters that had been sent them in baskets of flowers.
And what song can equal the one we sing, or talk, about
our own affairs ? Mr. Milton s glorious voice rose and fell
to incomparable melodies, but Jane s hand-clasp was so
friendlike, and her face and words so sympathetic, that the
two girls heard only their own chatter, and knew not that
the greatest of English poets was singing with enchanting
sweetness the songs of Lodge, and Raleigh, and Drayton.

But Cromwell knew it; he came to the entrance fre
quently and listened, and then went back to the group by
the hearth, who were smoking and talking of the glorious
liberating movements of the century the Commonwealth
in England, and the free commonwealths Englishmen were
planting beyond the great seas. If the first should fail,
there would still be left to unslavish souls the freedom of
the illimitable western wilderness.

When the music ceased, the evening was far spent ; and
Cromwell said as he drew Frances and Jane within his
arms, " Bring me the Bible, Mary. Mr. Milton has been
giving us English song, now we will have the loftier music
of King David."

" And we shall get no grander music, sir," said Doctor
Owen, " than is to be found in the Bible. Sublimity is He
brew by birth. We must go to the Holy Book for words


beyond our words. Is there a man living who could have
written that glorious Hvmn,

O j

ctt Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place in all genera
tions ;

" Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever


Thou hadst formed the earth and the world ; even from
everlasting to everlasting Thou art God ? "


" The prophets also," said Doctor Verity, " were poets,
and of the highest order. Turn to Habakkuk, the third
chapter, and consider his description of the Holy One
coming from Mount Parem : l His glory covered the
heavens. His brightness was as the light. He stood and
measured the earth : He beheld and drove asunder the na
tions : the everlasting mountains were scattered, the per
petual hills did bow. And most striking of all about this
Holy One Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.

Cromwell did not answer; he was turning the leaves of
the dear, homely-looking volume which his daughter had
laid before him. She hung affectionately over his shoulder,
and when he had found what he wanted, he looked up at her,
and she smiled and nodded her approbation. Then he said,

u Truly, I think no mortal pen but St. John s could have
written these lines ; and I give not St. John the honour,
for the Holy One must have put them into his heart, and
the hand of his angel guided his pen." And he began to
read, and the words fell like a splendid vision, and a great
awe filled the room as they dropped from Cromwell s lips :

" And I saw heaven opened, and beheld a white horse ;
and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True,
and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

" His eyes were as a flame of lire, and on his head were
many crowns ; and he had a name written, that no man
knew but himself.



" And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood:
and his name is called The Word of God.

" And the armies which were in heaven followed him
upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

" And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with
it he should smite the nations ; and he shall rule them with
a rod of iron ; and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierce
ness and wrath of Almighty God.

And when he finished these words he cried out in a trans
port, " Suffer Thy servant, oh, Faithful and True, when
his warfare here is accomplished, to be among the armies
which are in heaven following the Word of God upon white
horses clothed in fine linen white and clean." And then
turning the leaf of the Bible he said with an unconceivable
solemnity, " Read now what is written in Revelations, chap
ter 2oth, 11-15 verses:

" l And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on
it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away ;
and there was found no place for them.

" And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before
God ; and the books were opened ; and another book was
opened, which is the book of life : and the dead were judged
out of those things which were written in the books, ac
cording to their works.

" And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.
This is the second death. "

And when he ceased there was a silence that could be
felt, a silence almost painful, ere Dr. Owen s silvery voice
penetrated it with the words of the Benediction. Then the
Protector and Mrs. Cromwell kissed the girls, and the cler
gymen blessed them, and they went to their rooms as from
the very presence of God.

But Mrs. Cromwell lingered a long time. She could not


rest until she had seen the silver and crystal and fine damask
put away in safety ; and she thought it no shame to look
as her Lord did after the fragments of the abundant din

" I will not have them wasted," she said to the steward,
" nor given to those who need them not. The Lady Eliza
beth hath a list of poor families, and it is my will that they,
and they only, are served."

Then she went to her daughter Claypole s apartments,
and talked with her about her children, and her health ;
also about the disorders and thieving of the servants,
wrong-doings, which caused her orderly, careful nature
much grief and perplexity. Elizabeth was her comforter
and councilor, and the good daughter generally managed to
infuse into her mother s heart a serene trust, that with all
its expense and inefficiencies the household was conducted
on as moderate a scale as was consistent with her father s

When they parted it was very late ; the palace was dark
and still, and Mrs. Cromwell, with careful economies in her
mind, and a candle in her hand, went softly along the lonely,
gloomy corridors the very same corridors that a few years
before had been the lodging-place of the Queen s thirty
priests and her seventy-five French ladies and gentlemen.
Flad it been the war-like Oliver thus treading in their foot
steps, he would have thought of these things, and seen with
spiritual vision the black-robed Jesuits slipping noiselessly
along ; he would have seen the painted, curled, beribboned,
scented men and women of that period ; and he would also
have remembered the insults offered the Queen and her
English attendants by the black and motley crew, ere the

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe lion's whelp; a story of Cromwell's time → online text (page 22 of 27)